Did you know that November is National Adoption Month in the United States?
Both of my children were adopted, and from the very beginning we have been sharing stories with them to normalize adoption, help them understand their stories, and support them to feel proud of their beginnings.
In this post I am sharing a collection of books about adoption that are perfect for sharing with children. If your children are adopted, it is important to communicate with them early and often about their adoption story.
But even if you don’t have adopted children, these books will help all children understand that families are formed in many different ways, and that the parent-child and sibling-sibling bond in adoptive families is just as strong as in birth families.
All families are to be celebrated, no matter how they were formed.
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
This was one of my favorite books to read to my kids when they were younger. It’s a great book for kids ages 3 to 6. Little Choco is a bird who does not have a family. He asks one animal after another if they are his mother, but each of them responds that they can’t be his mother because they don’t look like him. Mrs. Giraffe doesn’t have wings like Choco and Mrs. Penguin doesn’t have round cheeks like Choco. But eventually Choco meets Mrs. Bear. Even though Mrs. Bear doesn’t look like Choco, she is willing to be his mother. And soon Choco has several siblings, none of whom look like Mrs. Bear either. The clear message in this book is that there is no need for people to look alike in order to be family. This is a great book to share with children ages 2-7.
I Wished for You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond
The young child (illustrated as a bear named Barley) at the center of this story cuddles up next to his mama and says, “Mama, tell me again how I’m your wish come true.” Undoubtedly, many adoptive parents feel that welcoming their child into their home was like having a wish come true, and I love how this book captures that sentiment, especially since the child knows how special he is to his mother. Barley continues asking questions and his mother lovingly and patiently answers them all. Adoptive parents may find words they can use to answer their own children’s questions through reading this book. This book is most appropriate for children ages 3-7.
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
In this sweet story, a young girl asks her parents to tell all of her favorite parts of her adoption story – the night she was born, why she couldn’t stay with her birth mother, how her mom cried happy tears, how her dad told her all about baseball, how she liked her first bottle, and how she didn’t like her first diaper change. Although the child in this book appears to have been adopted domestically as a newborn, children adopted at all ages and from all countries will identify with the desire to hear their adoption story over and over again. If I have any quibble with this book it is with the fact that it describes the baby as a “china doll,” which is an outdated term that is offensive to some people. This book is most appropriate for children ages 3 to 7.
My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You by Dr. Kevin Leman
Family tree assignments can be emotionally difficult for adopted children, who may have conflicted feelings about including both their adoptive and birth families or who may not even have birth family information to include. So when Panda’s teacher assigns him to make a family tree to bring to school, he feels worried because his family tree is different from those of the other students in the class. He trudges home in a somber mood and tells his mom about his concerns. She tries to reassure him, but he worries that his family is so different because he is a panda and his parents are brown bears. So his mama sits down and tells him the special story of how he joined her family. Eventually, Panda’s worries fade and he creates a special family tree to share with his classmates.
I appreciate that this book speaks to the fears many children have about being “different.” Children ages 4-8 will benefit from the messages in this book that families are created with love. Note that this book includes religious references.
Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story by Yumi Heo
This sweet little story is told from the perspective of a young girl awaiting the arrival of her new baby sister from Korea. The girl counts down the days and nights from when she says goodbye to her mother as she boards a plane to Korea until her mother comes home again with a small baby in her arms. This book would be a lovely one to share with children ages 2 to 7 who are waiting for the arrival of an adopted sibling.
Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz
This adoption tale is told from the parents’ perspective, as they dream of a child that will one day be theirs. Then they receive a call that a baby has been born that will be theirs. They pack and hop on a plane and go to see their baby. They meet their baby and her foster parents, and at last they hold their child in their arms and become a family. The parents are so happy. This short, sweet tale is most appropriate for children ages 3-7. If I have one quibble with this book it is with the words the parents used to tell their daughter how she came to be their little girl: “You grew like a flower in another lady’s tummy until you were born.” I personally prefer to use more direct and scientifically correct explanations with my children rather than metaphorical language. Nonetheless, this would be a nice book to share with adopted children who enjoy hearing how excited their parents were to meet them.
Rosie’s Family: An adoption story by Lori Rosove
Rosie is a brown and white beagle who was adopted into a family of grey schnauzers. The book is told from Rosie’s perspective, and it focuses heavily on the fact that children and their parents do not have to look alike in order to belong together. I like that this book verbalizes questions that a lot of adopted kids are likely to have, such as “What was I like when you first brought me home?” and “Are you my real parents?” and “What were my birth parents like?” and “Do I really belong in my family?” This is an excellent book for opening a dialogue with children ages 4 to 8 who are adopted and may have questions that they are looking to have answered.
My Family is Forever by Nancy Carlson
This book is told from the perspective of a young girl who was adopted into her family. The girl is Asian, and she doesn’t look like her white parents. But she has learned that families are formed in many different ways, and the people in a family don’t always look alike. The most important ingredient for making a family is love. This book is most appropriate for kids ages 3-7.
The Day We Met You by Phoebe Koehler
This book would be a wonderful one for parents to read to their adopted children starting from the day they come home. It provides simple words that parents can share to help their child begin to understand their adoption story right from the very beginning. Plus, this book helps children to understand the excitement and love their parents have for them as they join a new family.
Happy Adoption Day! by John McCutcheon
This rhyming book (with sheet music at the back to turn the words into song) features two white parents and their adopted child, who looks to be Asian although ethnicity is never mentioned. Some of the positive messages in this book include the fact that the parents chose the child (rather than the family coming together through chance) and that the child will always have a home with her new parents. The book is written from the perspective of the two adoptive parents who love to celebrate the day their child joined their family. It is important to note that while many adopted children, including my own two, enjoy celebrating their Adoption Day, not all adopted children feel this way. For many adopted children the day of their adoption is a day of loss and grief. For those children, it would be more appropriate to select a different book to read. This book is most appropriate for children ages 4-8.
This book by the inimitable Todd Parr features bright, bold colors and fun, child-like illustrations. It focuses on how adopted children and their families belong together. Over and over it mentions a need the adopted child had and the way the family was able to meet that need. For example, the child needed a home and the family had a home to share. Although I like this book, I’ve heard others criticize it for being too focused on what the child needs rather than on what the child brings to the family. This sweet book is perfect for children ages 2 to 5.
Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles by Darlene Friedman
Cassidy-Li is a six year-old girl, and she is preparing a poster to tell her classmates all about herself for her turn as “Star of the Week.” On her poster she includes a photo from when her parents adopted her in China, photos of several of her cousins, and a photo with her grandparents. She includes photos showing things she likes to do, like playing soccer, playing the piano, and attending Chinese school on Saturdays. She includes photos of her pets and of her “Chinese cousins” who were adopted from the same orphanage as her. But as she gets close to completing her poster, Cassidy-Li feels something is missing – photos of her birth parents. She thinks about them a lot and misses them sometimes. Eventually she decides to draw a picture of her birth parents to complete her poster. This would be a great book to share with adopted children ages 4 to 10. I particularly like how this book focuses on the feelings of the adopted child, and I appreciate how Cassidy-Li’s parents support her feelings about her birth parents.
Adoption Is for Always by Linda Walvoord Girard
The style of this book is a bit old fashioned, as the illustrations are in black and white. However, this was my daughter’s favorite book for a while, probably because of how well it explores the emotions felt by the protagonist, a girl named Cecilia who was adopted domestically as a baby. The longer text make this book most appropriate for children ages 4-10.
In this book we meet Cecilia, who has known since she was a baby that she was adopted. However, she had never really thought about what that meant until recently, and her new understanding has brought up a lot of emotions. Cecilia wonders why her birth mother gave her up for adoption, and her anxiety causes her to lash out at her family members with hurtful words. But her parents support her to starting learning more about her birth family. Eventually, a caring teacher helps Cecilia realize that she did nothing wrong that caused her to be adopted.
The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin
There is an ancient Chinese belief that an invisible red thread connects all those who are destined to be together. This belief, which is commonly heard in Chinese adoption circles, is at the center of this fairy tale story. A king and queen feel a pain in their heart, and no doctor can help them. Then one day, an old peddler comes to their kingdom and tells them a red thread is being pulled from their hearts. The king and queen put on the old peddler’s spectacles and are able to see a red thread winding and twisting all around the room, out the castle door, and far into the distance. So the king and queen set out to learn who is pulling on the red thread. They traveled across land, across the ocean, and through small towns. Eventually, they follow the red thread to a little baby girl! The king and queen head home with their new baby girl, and the girl becomes the princess of the kingdom. This book will be most enjoyed by children ages 4 to 8.
The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption by Elaine M. Aoki and Jean Davies Okimoto
This book is about the journey taken by four different families who adopt infant girls from China. The book includes a diverse group of families, including a same-sex couple, a single mom, and a Japanese-American family. All fly to China to meet their forever children and settle in for a short stay in China until they are able to bring their children home. And the families keep in touch when they return to the US, sharing cards and pictures of their quickly growing children. This book will have special meaning for parents who stayed at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China. But this book will also be enjoyed by children ages 4-8 who were adopted from China.
This book was another one of my daughter’s favorites – perhaps because she, like the character in the book, was adopted at a slightly older age (nearly 3 years). Many adoption books talk about parents rushing off to get bottles and cribs, but children adopted at older ages may not relate because they were past that stage when they joined their forever families. This book acknowledges that parents who adopt their children at older ages miss many of the early milestones, but it draws attention to the many, many life events that parents and children will still share. These include first time swimming across the pool, first day of middle school, going trick-or-treating, telling bedtime stories, kissing boo boos, and more. No matter the age a child is when she joins her forever family, parents will always be grateful for their forever child. This book is most appropriate for children ages 4 to 10. Book contains religious references.
Forever Fingerprints: An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children by Sherrie Eldridge
The front of this book includes a note to parents, explaining that the book was written as a tool to help them find the right words to answer their children’s questions about adoption. The story itself is told through the eyes of Lucie. One day her aunt and uncle arrive, and she is surprised to see that her aunt has a stomach the size of a beach ball. Her aunt is pregnant! Lucie wonders about the baby: is he eating? is he sleeping? is he pooping? Seeing her pregnant aunt brings up all sorts of questions for Lucie about her own adoption. She wonders about her birth parents. Her dad then tells her something special about her fingerprints. He explains that her fingerprints are special, because no one else in the whole world has fingerprints just like hers. Plus, her fingerprints will stay the same throughout her entire life. And best of all, her fingerprints were created while she was in her birth mother’s womb. Her dad tells her that all she has to do is to look at her fingertips and remember what it was like in her birth mother’s womb. This book is most appropriate for children ages 5 to 10.
Kids Like Me in China by Ying Ying Fry
While most books about adoption are written by adoptive parents, this book is unique because it was written by an eight-year-old girl who was herself adopted. Ying Ying Fry was adopted from China as a baby. In this book, she tells us about how she was adopted as a baby and she brings us with her as she travels back to China to visit the orphanage where she lived during her first months. Through Ying Ying’s eyes, young children gain a better understanding of Chinese culture. The book is richly illustrated with photographs from Ying Ying’s travels back to China. Although some of the information about why children in China are typically placed for adoption is a bit outdated as Chinese culture and society have changed, this book would be a rich resource for children adopted from China or for others wanting to know about their friends and family who have been adopted from China. This book is most appropriate for children ages 7 and up.
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose A. Lewis
This book is written by an adoptive mom as a way to share her story with the daughter she adopted from China. The woman – who appears to be single – wants a baby. She writes to China to ask if she can adopt one of the babies in the orphanages there. Eventually, she gets on a plane to China and meets her baby girl. At that moment she is so happy she cries! “I love you like crazy cakes,” she whispers to her new daughter. The mom tells how she put her daughter in the crib and kissed her good night and fell in love with her. She tells of playing with her daughter and taking pictures of her wearing silly hats. And she tells how they flew back to America where everyone wanted to meet the newest member of the family. And finally, the mother tells how she held her baby tight and shed tears for her Chinese mother who could not keep her.
I appreciate that this book mentions the birth parents and the sadness they most likely felt at not being able to raise their daughter. This book will be enjoyed by children ages 4 to 8.
Families Are Different by Nina Pellegrini
This book is narrated by Nico, a young girl adopted from Korea who lives in the United States with her white mom and dad and an older sister who is also adopted from Korea. The two sisters fight a lot, but also love each other a lot too. Nico has a dog and two best friends in her kindergarten class. She loves giving kisses to her mom and dad. Nico explains how at first she didn’t mind that she looked different from her parents, but then it started to bother her. Then she looked around and saw that her classmates came from all sorts of different families, with multi-racial parents, single parents, big families with five kids, medium families with two kids, small families with one dad and one daughter, and divorced families too. Then Nico realized she is just like everyone else. . . because she’s different! And the big message in this book is that families are created with love. This is a sweet book for sharing with children ages 3 to 7.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
This book tells the true story of a penguin family living in New York’s Central Park Zoo. This family consists of two boy penguins, Roy and Silo, who fall in love. They walk together, swim together, and sing to each other. But while Roy and Silo can do many things, they cannot lay an egg like the other penguin couples. One day, the zookeeper brings Roy and Silo an egg that could not be cared for by its biological parents. Roy and Silo take turns keeping the egg warm until one day the egg hatches. The baby penguin is named Tango, and Roy and Silo become its parents. They feed her, snuggle with her, and teach her how to swim. Through the blessing of adoption, Roy, Silo, and Tango become a family of three.
Sisters by Judith Caseley
I enjoyed this book because it brought a different perspective than most of the other books on adoption since it deals with the adoption of an older child (who appears to be at least school age). Melissa’s family is waiting for a new child to arrive, a girl who will be Melissa’s sister. Eventually, Kika arrives. Although the book doesn’t explicitly state whether Kika was adopted domestically or internationally, it is clear that she has very little understanding of American culture. The book alternates back and forth between telling the story from Melissa’s perspective, as she works to integrate her new sister into the family and occasionally feels jealous, and Kika’s perspective, as she learns to feel safe in her new family. This book is most appropriate for children ages 5 and up.